By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer
New guidelines for little league baseball pitchers is changing the way coaches and players approach the game and according to many — is saving little arms for high school, college and beyond.
Roosevelt and Curry County have played the 2007 season under Little League International’s new pitch count program which prescribes actual pitch limits on each pitcher rather than the traditional method of limiting the number of innings pitched and many area Little League coaches welcome the changes.
“It preserves the young kids’ arms,” Dan Ray, assistant coach for the Portales major division Astros said. “I know when I was growing up playing little league you could throw until you had to stick your arm in ice or until you started pitching bad. So coaches didn’t hesitate to leave you in the entire game.”
Donny Martinez is in his second year coaching the Pirates of the Majors division and agrees that the new regulations will extend the playing career of his kids.
“I think it’s good on the kids,” Martinez said. “It helps save their arms and it prevents a kid from hurting his arm for a few years later.”
According to the new guidelines, which went into effect at the beginning of this season, little league pitchers have a maximum number of pitches they can throw on any given day. And depending on how many pitches they throw in a game, they are subject to rest.
For example, in the majors division, ages 11-12, a pitcher has a maximum of 85 pitches on any given day. If a pitcher throws 1-20 pitches, he doesn’t have to have any rest. 21-40 pitches would earn them one days rest, while 41-60 pitches would get them two days rest and anything above 60 pitches would mean a three-day rest.
12-year-old Raymond Martinez pitches for the Pirates and says it’s a big deal, especially when you pitch long innings.
“It just depends,” Martinez said. “If you pitch a lot of pitches in one inning, it’s not very good.”
“In the past, that’s what has happened,” Donny Martinez said. “Let’s say you’re playing the first place team and you’re going to make your kid work because it’s going to be a close game and you’re going to use him and use him and he’s going to throw hard and his arm will be used up.”
As a result of the new pitching rules, Martinez also believes it will force coaches to focus on their pitching staff’s depth.
“If you had a good kid who was a good pitcher and you didn’t have any depth at pitching, you would use that one pitcher up — maybe for the rest of his career.”
“You’ve just got to have more depth in your pitching. You’ve got to have more than one kid who can at least get it over the plate and throw strikes.”
With the first full season with the new guidelines in place, coaches and players alike think it will make their Little League years more productive and less abusive to the young arms that are just learning the game.
“It’ll make the coaches work more and it will give other kids a chance to pitch,” Martinez said. “And that’s a good thing.”